If you are any web savvy at all, you have probably heard the phrases dedicated server and shared server on a number of occasions. The differences between them are both vague and definite, vast and infinitesimal.
Basically the concept breaks down like this: in the case of a shared server, you share server space with some other website and you are not 100% in control of what happens. If the other websites on your shared servers should see a surge in traffic, naturally your site will slow down, regardless of whether you are receiving any traffic or not. For this one reason, many people choose to run a dedicated server, which is dedicated only to you and your website and nothing else. In this case, no other slowdown will affect you the way that you can be affected on a shared server. This is an important part of controlling traffic and making sure that people can reach you on your website without difficulty.
Budget vs Performance Factor
On the other hand, utilizing a shared server can save a tremendous amount of money, as dedicated servers are certainly more expensive than a shared server option. Unfortunately, with a shared server you have far less security options and less flexibility. You are hamstrung by the shared server administrator and what they choose to implement on the server itself. Should you need help with a specific task or function, such as scalability or security, you are basically left to your own devices in the case of the shared server. But on a dedicated server, you have complete control over everything that happens on your server and you are in control of security as well as scalability.
In fact, scalability is one of the things that gets overlooked most frequently in the case of server administration. At some point, you will very likely want to increase the size and abilities of your server. With a dedicated server, this is a simple task and requires almost no effort on your part. With a shared server, there is a limit, a virtual ceiling that you cannot surpass. With a shared server, if you intend to scale up and increase your site traffic or the size of the data being transferred, you have no choice but to move your entire site somewhere else that provides more of these essential functions. With a dedicated server, scalability is not even an issue and you can simply move into a larger world with great ease.
Other advantages of running a dedicated server include complete control over content and the ability to work directly with the server administration, meaning that you have complete control over all manner of features and functions that a shared server would not allow.
To simplify this concept, imagine riding in a van with other passengers. Then imagine that you want to change the air conditioning or change the station on the radio. With the other passengers, the example of the shared server, you would have to ask their permission and be subjected to their whims and fancies. With a dedicated server, you’re riding in a van by yourself and you don’t have to ask anyone for anything.
While this is an oversimplification, it provides great insight into the differences between a shared server and a dedicated server. Ultimately, the decision rests with the user and the needs that they have for their website as well as their budget.